Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Family Tales of Woes and Victories by BabaWilly

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Catching your child wasting family resources can spark anger. With that comes an intense desire to right all the wrong ideas they harbour about the intrinsic value of things they see in the family home. The usual vehicle for the attempt at transforming their behaviour is the ‘lecture’.

Unfortunately, angry professors make bad lecturers for they do not create a very good learning environment. And parents, rather than give an organised talk that has the traditional introduction, beginning, middle and an ending, will blast off into orbit unleashing random words that cannot be followed even with a NASA radar. Soon the topic is lost in a montage of accusations and personal attacks.

‘You are wasteful. You are careless. You think money grows on trees? When I was your age….’

Can it really be true that every single parent was a much more rounded and productive member of the society when they were the same age as their kids? The problem with family time is that the interactions occur after a hard day at work and being patient at these times can be tasking. If money is tight in the family, then you might as well douse the furniture and householders in kerosene and wait for the spark. The risk of an explosion is always inversely proportional to the family bank balance.

I once had a chance meeting (in the kitchen) with a family member who had a quantity of undiluted squash in a glass and had turned on the cold water tap. Like all nosey parents, once an activity starts in your house, you wait to see how it would end abi? When the glass was full, the tasting process and the look on the face proved that the drink was too sweet. Like one watching a movie I had anticipated her next move and like a Hollywood director this family member proceeded to surprise me by pouring half the drink down the sink and turning the tap on again. While I might not be quick off the mark when the gun sounds like Mr Bolt, my reaction time when the need for a lecture arises is so quick, if timed I could be penalised for making a false start.

‘That costs money. I don’t work for the drain. I don’t work for the bin either. You feed the bin more than you feed yourself. The bins are gaining weight and the drain has problems with sugar metabolism and you?  Your weight is going down’ I was in ‘the flow’ and rapidly going through the decibel gear changes.

And the beat goes on. Once you start, they wear that look, and you know they don’t agree with you but you talk on regardless, with intensity for, hopefully one or two words will penetrate.

The girls get told, ‘don’t go to your husband’s house and pour all his salary down the drain’. The poor naija girls under five years old always get confused with this nugget of naija wisdom.

The boys are told, ‘you are a man o! You will not live under this house forever throwing food in the bin, burning toast three consecutive times running and binning the lot. When you start paying bills, you will know’.

If mum walks in to ask what the noise is, everyone is saved by the bell. Dad goes off to watch Chelsea on the telly with the parting shot to madam, ‘better talk to these your children. I have said my own’.

If oga forgets something in the kitchen and returns he might just make out madam consoling her six year old son with the words, ‘don’t mind him. Instead of buying a problem toaster with a good timer the stingy man is shouting’.

Oh yes. Balance is key in Naija shouting admonitions. One gives a verbal lashing and the other draws the child close in an affectionate manner. God help the Naija child having both parents being fully signed up members of the Association of hard core shouting parental admonishers of Nigeria! (AOHCSPAON)

 Now compare this to the calm and measured way that those who tell the kids to do the absolute wrong things speak. The ones with bad advice are usually better dressed and articulate with more street credibility which impressionable minds flow blindly. Raising ones voice is not the way to go.

It is really important to instil a sense of value in oneself and in the resources at one’s disposal. A child who grows up not respecting their family name or their sense of identity is headed for prison. Talent must be harnessed, nurtured and disciplined.  However once a parent gets on the activity treadmill of teaching a child how to walk, talk, dressing bathe and clothe itself, the parent has become a teacher for life. Apart from the instructional role, there is also the leadership role.

Like all leaders parents want to be loved and appreciated for the sacrifices that come with the job. After all, acknowledging, respecting and valuing the efforts made on one’s behalf is essential in life. Unfortunately the kids think that the parents are olodo or at best old fashioned. Anybody outside the home will invoke so much wonder and respect which has a detrimental effect on parental ego.

What better way to assert parental supremacy than by being elaborate about the numerous obstacles and incidences of woe that have been endured and overcome through the years and how victory after victory was wrestled out of the jaws of that bad dragon called defeat.

This is a special type of lecture. It is idle boasting and it serves no purpose save creating an illusion of passing pearls of profound wisdom down. Like a hunter with a loaded gun sits in the bushes patiently so the parent waits for the kill. The best time to pull the trigger is when a child asked for something  especially  when they take the granting their request is a forgone conclusion.

‘You must think life is a bed of roses se?! So just because you saw an advert about Disney world I should leave what I am doing and take you there. You are spoilt o. Is it Mickey mouse that will pay the mortgage?  When I was you age, who born me to suggest a holiday destination to my papa? Do you know what I did to get to this stage in life? I walked five miles to school and back. Sold bread off a tray balanced on this head every evening (slaps at his head for sound effects).  Went hunting in the forests of Suru-Lere and killed antelopes for supper, swept the house clean and started my home work by 2am. I was up by 4am to do house work. And I still came first in every exam I did from primary school to university’.

‘Daddy, what is first?’ asks the six year old confused lad.

‘Ah, I forgot. You people don’t have positions in class anymore. You see yourself?  Easy life. That is why you want to go to Disney after just one advert.  My class was like the Premier League. I was in the Man United and Arsenal level. Top two finish every time. Common entrance examination into secondary school nko? That was the Champion’s League and I was the intellectual Messi of my metaphorical Barcelona. I won the Champions league na ni. Going to Lagos and ask. No one has repeated my high scores to date.  They still talk about my results’

‘Dad, I am too young to go to Lagos. I am only six’ says the lad.

‘Oh, but not too young for Disney abi? I got a first class in university you know. I had no shoes. I used to kill snakes for breakfast with my bare hands. If I did not suffer, where would you be? I did it for you. I wrote three hundred and forty applications before I got my current job. I do so many hours and sweat blood for my pay’

Child looks at mum who just walked in.

‘Dad said he had the best result in Lagos state’

‘He did?’

‘Dad, are we still going to Disney?’

‘I give up. You mother has spoilt you. I am off to watch Chelsea. Woman, talk to your son’

PS- Members of  AOHCSPAON in their defence always cite the London case. An Oxford engineering graduate was making a speech during his graduation party and thanked his neighbour for the fatherly advice which contributed to his success. His white parents looked at their Naija neighbour wondering when this advice took place. Mr Bankole himself was puzzled and asked, ‘Tim, when did this advice session take place?’

‘It was indirect advice actually. You always shouted loudly to Bola and Kola and I heard clearly through the walls, “read your books or you will die!” I got scared and thought you were going to break the wall and kill me also so I kept on reading’.


Dr Wilson Orhiunu


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